Level II scour analysis for Bridge 39 (LOWETH00080039) on Town Highway 8, crossing Potter Brook, Lowell, Vermont

Open-File Report 97-629
Prepared in cooperation with Vermont Agency of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration
By:  and 



This report provides the results of a detailed Level II analysis of scour potential at structure LOWETH00080039 on Town Highway 8 crossing Potter Brook, Lowell, Vermont (figures 1–8). A Level II study is a basic engineering analysis of the site, including a quantitative analysis of stream stability and scour (U.S. Department of Transportation, 1993). Results of a Level I scour investigation also are included in Appendix E of this report. A Level I investigation provides a qualitative geomorphic characterization of the study site. Information on the bridge, gleaned from Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTAOT) files, was compiled prior to conducting Level I and Level II analyses and is found in Appendix D.

The site is in the Green Mountain section of the New England physiographic province in north-central Vermont. The 4.69-mi2 drainage area is in a predominantly rural and forested basin. In the vicinity of the study site, the surface cover consists of shrub and brushland, except for the left overbank upstream which is forest.

In the study area, Potter Brook has a sinuous channel with a slope of approximately 0.004 ft/ft, an average channel top width of 34 feet and an average bank height of 3 ft. The predominant channel bed materials are gravel and sand with a median grain size (D50) of 18.7 mm (0.0613 ft). The geomorphic assessment at the time of the Level I and Level II site visit on June 15, 1995, indicated that the reach was laterally unstable. This assessment of the reach was primarily due to the meandering of the channel with cut-banks and narrow point bars and the fine bank and bed material near the site.

The Town Highway 8 crossing of Potter Brook is a 23-ft-long, one-lane bridge consisting of one 21-foot steel-beam span (Vermont Agency of Transportation, written communication, March 7, 1995). The bridge is supported by vertical, concrete abutments with wingwalls. The channel is skewed approximately 20 degrees to the opening while the opening-skew-toroadway is zero degrees. A scour hole 2.0 feet deeper than the mean thalweg depth was observed along the left abutment during the Level I assessment. There were no scour protection measures evident at the site. Additional details describing conditions at the site are included in the Level II Summary and Appendices D and E.

Scour depths and recommended rock rip-rap sizes were computed using the general guidelines described in Hydraulic Engineering Circular 18 (Richardson and others, 1995). Total scour at a highway crossing is comprised of three components: 1) long-term streambed degradation; 2) contraction scour (due to accelerated flow caused by a reduction in flow area at a bridge) and; 3) local scour (caused by accelerated flow around piers and abutments). Total scour is the sum of the three components. Equations are available to compute depths for contraction and local scour and a summary of the results of these computations follows.

Contraction scour for all modelled flows ranged from 0.0 to 0.3 ft. The worst-case contraction scour occurred at the 500-year discharge. Abutment scour ranged from 1.8 to 5.5 feet. The worst-case abutment scour occurred at the 100-year discharge. Additional information on scour depths and depths to armoring are included in the section titled “Scour Results”. Scoured-streambed elevations, based on the calculated scour depths, are presented in tables 1 and 2. A cross-section of the scour computed at the bridge is presented in figure 8. Scour depths were calculated assuming an infinite depth of erosive material and a homogeneous particle-size distribution.

It is generally accepted that the Froehlich equation (abutment scour) gives “excessively conservative estimates of scour depths” (Richardson and others, 1995, p. 47). Usually, computed scour depths are evaluated in combination with other information including (but not limited to) historical performance during flood events, the geomorphic stability assessment, existing scour protection measures, and the results of the hydraulic analyses. Therefore, scour depths adopted by VTAOT may differ from the computed values documented herein.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Level II scour analysis for Bridge 39 (LOWETH00080039) on Town Highway 8, crossing Potter Brook, Lowell, Vermont
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 97-629
DOI 10.3133/ofr97629
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Pembroke, NH
Description iv, 50 p.
Country United States
State Vermont
City Lowell
Other Geospatial Potter Brook
Scale 24000
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